Today in London’s military history, 1759: army recruits mutiny on the Savoy barracks

As covered in earlier posts on this blog, part of the old Savoy Palace building  – built in the thirteenth century for Edmund Earl of Lancaster, on land between the Strand and the river Thames  – was converted around 1679 into a barracks, which included a military prison, which particularly held any army deserters due to be shot in Hyde Park. Later the prison also seems to have been used to house civilian convicts.

Another group seemingly confined here, though as to how regularly is unclear, were ‘recruits’ destined to be shipped to India or other parts of the ‘far east’ to serve in the military forces commanded by the East India Company.

Whether recruited into the British Army (either voluntarily or pressganged) or into the East India Company’s own private militia, many of those billeted in the Savoy – fodder for Britain’s constant wars of imperial expansion  – quickly came to regret signing up, and the barracks were the site of regular mutinies and revolts in the 18th century.

In 1759 a riot of recruits had to be quelled by troops:

“About eight o’clock in the evening, the recruits in the Savoy mutinied: a guard was sent to quell them, who as first were ordered to fire only with powder; the recruits returned the compliment by throwing brickbats, which knocked several of he soldiers down; they were then ordered to fire with ball, which wounded several of the recruits, and put a stop to the fray. But unhappily one Jones, belonging to the third regiment of foot guards, getting upon the leads of the prison to see the affair, and looking down, was taken for one of the prisoners by the sentinel, who immediately shot at him, and the ball went through his head, and killed him on the spot. Nine of the men were dangerously wounded, and eighteen more of the put in irons.” (Annual Register, 1759)

In 1761 over 200 (possibly military) prisoners held in the Savoy mutinied, and a considerable battle developed.
1763 saw a revolt by East India Company troops stationed here.

In 1776 there was another mutiny.

In 1798 military prisoners rebelled & rioted for several days.

The site of the prison and palace was cleared from 1816-1820 for the construction of the approach to the new Waterloo Bridge.



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